In reading about the insanity of the mass shooting in Las Vegas it set me to think about my own experience with guns beginning with my introduction to subsistence hunting as a child which is where I will begin:
I don’t recall exactly when the concept of “trophy hunting” was explained to me but it was following my first trip to town with grandmother when I was around six years old.
During that trip I was overwhelmed by what I was seeing, a world I had heard tales about but never actually experienced.
A part of that experience was a number of vehicles passing through the streets with a dead deer lashed to the fender or gutted and laying in the back of a pick up.
We walked by maybe two or three that were parked with passersby admiring the “prowess” of the hunter and asking related questions.
Of the bits and pieces I overheard and could understand you would have thought an epic battle had taken place, an even contest with life or death hanging in the balance.
I found it all unsettling as I had been taught hunting was a matter of necessity, not a sport, and in the taking of a life that would provide sustenance it was appropriate to acknowledge that and give thanks to the deer, elk, or even rabbit for their sacrifice that we might live.
I remain a believer in subsistence hunting and I cannot foresee a time when that belief would change.
Other events had occurred during that trip to town that were foremost in my mind and it wasn’t until a few days later that I asked grandmother about what I had seen and the associated boasting that accompanied it – I thought it bad form to display a body strapped to a fender and seek attention.
Grandmother said some may have actually hunted with the intention of providing for their family while others did so as some kind of game, a sport – something she couldn’t understand and probably neither would I as she said these things to me or even years later.
Grandmother was right – I didn’t understand it then and still don’t now – but then there are a lot of things I don’t understand and in a situation such as this I have no desire to “understand”.
By the time I was eight or so I was hunting for small game like rabbits – I had graduated from a child’s bow to a sort of an age appropriate intermediary size one somewhere between my first child’s bow and that of an adult.
Big enough and strong enough for small game depending on distance – in close proximity it could be as deadly as any bow and that was a contributing factor in learning the art of stealth as it was always a one shot premise – a single shot to end it as opposed to inflicting pain and injury, and I spent untold hours practicing and honing those abilities.
I don’t recall waste being a part of the approach – the meat fed us, bones went to the hounds, and the pelts we saved to fashion useful articles from and on occasion to sell or barter for necessities.
It was a part of the rhythm or our life, a rhythm every culture across the width and breadth of this planet has engaged in at some point in their history.
Everyone of our nations that I am familiar with has an oral history of an agreement having been struck with the fourleggeds and winged ones that they would sacrifice their life so that as a people we might live.
A part of that agreement was we would honor that sacrifice and show an appropriate respect – trophy hunting does neither, but then I know of no such agreement among what has been the dominant culture in this country.
Some may think it a quaint form of animism, but I would point out it has sustained the nations from our beginnings and served to maintain equilibrium in our lives, our world view, the way we approached our environment and could serve as a model for others.
We never saw coyotes, wolves, or even prairie dogs as a nuisance, some enemy we should wage a war of attrition against with poisons, traps, or the “thrill” of shooting from an airplane.
I am a believer in gun rights but may need to explain that – a gun was never anything more than a tool for my family, and there was a distinct responsibility in the owning and operation of one.
A tool , not some perverse phallic symbol to tote around in public, not a “trophy” or symbol of manhood – a tool.
In view of the latest mass shooting that took place in Las Vegas the gun debate will ramp up again, and I’m not opposed to that as there are definite issues to be addressed.
In previous blogs I’ve expressed my opinion that assault rifles are not designed to be used for hunting anything other than a human being and responsible gun owners need to take back the narrative in part by policing their own – a narrative not likely to take place with conservatives controlling the three branches of government.
I don’t believe the message the NRA sends has any validity in promoting assault rifle ownership, or championing those with an identifiable mental illness that may have led to being institutionalized as having a right to “bear arms”, or even incredibly promoting silencers for guns.
To say that guns don’t kill people, people do is only half of the equation – the sole purpose of a gun is to kill or seriously maim, and while a gun obviously doesn’t of it’s own volition select a target and pull the trigger the other half of the equation is the person whose hands it is in – and that speaks directly to responsible ownership and responsible owners taking back the narrative.
Guns and gun violence are routinely romanticized in movies and the internet – how many times do you see a lone individual taking out multiple opponents? How many times do you see a person actually ducking a bullet, as if that could happen?
How many times have you seen the “hero” in television series or the movies being shot in the shoulder and recovering suffering no long term effects? How many times have you seen guns being used to intimidate?
How many times have you seen some television hero wounded only to appear in the next episode as stalwart, stoic, and strong?
I don’t know if it’s true or not but I read somewhere once that the character of Matt Dillon played by James Arness was wounded some twenty plus times during Gunsmoke’s series run.
A gun no more makes anyone of either gender more of man or more of woman their name does – in fact depending on whose hands it is it may well make them less depending on your definition of a man or a woman.
A “civilized” society that is long on talk about somehow being the apex of civilization can and should do better, such a nation is in fact obliged to.
I don’t know what motivates a shooter like the one in Las Vegas, I don’t believe it is possible for anyone to, one thing I do know is there is an increasing number of loons in society, loons with guns – an issue that needs to be acknowledged and addressed.
I think a part of the solution is to ban assault rifles, high capacity magazines, and tell anyone or any organization attempting to float the idea of legalizing silencers to take a hike .
If you need any or all of the three to hunt you don’t have any business with a hunting license.
On some level I believe gun violence is linked to the incessant global conflicts that abound, fear mongering, and the global arms race – all of that speaks to a devaluation of human life.
Couple those with “patriotism” and the national divide and it becomes a toxic brew.